The other day I had a brief email chat with a friend about the emotional life most writers experience. Writers as a group generally tend to be on the sensitive side. My friend mentioned how hard it is to open yourself up to possible rejection, which is a feeling all writers experience in one way or another sooner or later. My first reaction was to remind her God didn’t necessarily create us just so we could be happy. If that were the case then everyone would come to God just for the happy bucket and faith would be unnecessary.
I also reminded her of the old Campus Crusade pamphlet with the image of a train. The locomotive/engine is Fact (The Word of God) and the coal car fueling that fact is Faith. Emotions come last, as the little caboose tagging along for life’s ride.
As soon as I finished minimizing the importance of our emotional lives, I remembered that she happens to be writing a wonderful book on Joy – a very real human emotion. Of course God does want us to have an abundant life (John 10:10), and Paul set an example for us to learn to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11). In fact, one of the fruits of the spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22). So obviously part of life is to experience emotion. Emotions can be a great blessing.
But our culture seems to see happiness as the most important thing in life. Ask many parents nowadays what they want for their children and a number of them would probably say they just want their kids to be happy. Is that really the most important thing we should hope for our children? What about a faith-filled, responsible life of integrity? Wouldn’t happiness come as a result of a fruitful, meaningful life—as a byproduct, so to speak, of a life well lived?
I guess I’m thoughtful about happiness because it’s easy to fall into a trap. Eat this, it’ll make you happy. Watch this movie, it’ll leave you happy. Buy this product, it’ll make you happy. Even . . . dare I say this to another faithful reader: read this book, it’ll bring you happiness.
That’s all well and good, and some of those promises may come true, at least on a temporary basis. But I still maintain that happiness shouldn’t be our main goal in life. Sometimes eating the wrong thing that tastes good is bad for us. Or watching a movie that doesn’t fill our mind with the best images, or buying something we can’t afford, or even reading a book that might not be something we should let muddy our minds. Happiness can sometimes be self-indulgent.
However, I didn’t start this post with the idea of chastising anyone, myself included. I’m not even sure I’m totally on board a train analogy that puts so little value in emotions, since we were obviously created as emotional beings. Emotions, if we can, should be filtered through fact and reason, but they certainly play a huge part in every human life.
I was thinking about a little joy I felt today when a book was delivered to my door. It’s just want I need to help me research my current project. When the Postal Truck pulled up I watched with interest as she put a few things into the postal box on the road . . . but when I saw her add that flat cardboard container I burst into a full-fledged smile. My book arrived!
Ah, those little joys in life shouldn’t be taken for granted, should they?